In the winking, cloak-and-dagger-and-big-ass-laser spy classic “Goldfinger,” an unforgettable exchange between Sean Connery and Gert Fröbe sets the template for an iconic cinema franchise and, somewhat oddly, got me thinking about the role of Mike Dallas Jr. in Saturday’s fight with Yordenis Ugas on Fox Sports 1.
In the scene, Fröbe’s Auric Goldfinger has captured MI-6’s most dashing and dangerous British intelligence operative, Connery’s James Bond, strapping him to a table and aiming a Looney Tunes-style ray gun at Bond’s bollocks. The increasingly agitated 007 finally asks his nemesis, “You expect me to talk?” Goldfinger, already headed for the door, is stunned by the question: ”No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.” It’s a shamelessly fun and ludicrous set piece.
“Ludicrous” was the extent to which life imitated art Saturday at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Dallas’ involvement in a welterweight fight with Ugas defied reasonable logic. But this brand of outlandishness, rather than being represented by an Aston Martin outfitted with dual machine guns and a boozy secret agent hurling horndog puns, felt less campy and more like a con. It has been a decade since Dallas, 33, was considered a candidate for welterweight contendership, and since then he has had twice as many two-year layoffs (2) as legitimate matchups (1) — the lone tester being a split draw with Dusty Hernandez Harrison in 2016. So, it would be fair of you to ask yourself: Was Dallas summoned to Biloxi to actually fight?
No, boxing fan. He was brought here to lose.
And so Dallas did. Ugas (25-4, 12 KO), also 33, demonstrated himself to be classes ahead of his opponent — not just in terms of skill, but also conditioning. Ugas pressured, effortlessly outworked and boxed stalking circles around his opponent on his way to a 7th round stoppage. Even the finish, though, failed to deliver the entertainment value of your average popcorn flick, as Dallas (23-4-2, 11 KO) simply ran out of gas or decided he’d had his fill of an engineered ass-whupping.
Ugas wasted no time putting it on Dallas, landing several clean right hands, a memorable left hook and more levels-changing combinations than could be counted over the first few rounds. Dallas fought with a glove low and his head at a fixed point, but even a direct-to-dura brain download of defensive technique wouldn’t have spared him Saturday. Ugas was on point with his power hand, and he took advantage of Dallas’ plodding feet and arcing punches by walking him to the ropes and consistently being first. The nearest signs of trouble for Ugas were a couple of low blow rulings that gave Dallas a breather and drew an admonishment from the referee — although replays showed the second punch landed fully above the beltline. If Ugas’ early game plan was to ensure that not a moment lapsed when Dallas didn’t eat a face-full of leather or feel a sting under his ribs, the Cuban fulfilled his mission.
It wasn’t until the 4th that Dallas seemed to throttle up — even if that gear seemed to be desperation. He straightened his punches a bit, timed his counterpunching a tick more accurately and even cut Ugas between, and just above, the eyes (although officials ruled it a headbutt). Progress stalled in the 5th when Dallas, apparently fading, pirouetted through a missed punch, began laboring in full Old Man Walk mode, and was cuffed behind the ear by an Ugas right hand, sending the fighter to the floor and in a tangle between the ropes to end the round. (In something of a running theme, officials ruled what appeared to be a legitimate knockdown a slip.)
Dallas bounced back for arguably his best round in the 6th. In this case, though, “best” can be defined as three minutes that least felt as though he were taking a sustained and thorough caning from a Shaolin monk. It was the first instance of Ugas easing up in the fight, and it gave the momentary effect of making Dallas appear competitive, if not exactly game. Delivering ringside commentary on the FS1 broadcast, Anthony Dirrell declared more than once that Dallas was “not coming in here to lay down.” Fine, give him that. But Dallas wasn’t above showing up, raiding your chip cabinet and beer fridge, then chilling on your sofa for what felt like an interminable stretch. In the end, it was fine. No biggie. But just know you’re never getting that hour back.
Ugas ramped up the pressure again in the 7th round, and although Dallas never appeared hurt, he again was getting touched up while on the ropes, and the exchanges began to look more like those in the early rounds, when Ugas was outlanding Dallas three punches to one and thumping him with flush, head-snapping shots. The fight didn’t get away from Dallas all at once, but it was trending in a bad way. If you’re a post-prime fighter whose crowning professional achievement of the past seven years came in a UD over 8-14-1 Morris Rodriguez at the Back to Back Sports Complex in Bakersfield, California, you learn to read the signs. Better safe than stupid.
That’s how we found Dallas on his stool at the end of the round, faculties intact and corner choosing to close up shop. Referee Bill Clancy made the technical knockout official, and even if our heads told us it was the right move, we were suddenly left all alone with our dark, unfulfilled impulses. Most fights reward us with a back-and-forth, a satisfying denouement or at least some sort of gutter-trash, only-in-this-alternate-reality drama. This one just sort of … happened.
I suppose the lesson is to appreciate the good stuff when it comes along and understand that most of life is made up of a series of mediocrities meant to be tolerated. But, man, do I fucking hate lessons. Fight fans and cinephiles aren’t so different: They don’t need spine-tingling brilliance every time out — just a brief escape. Even my lizard brain knows they can’t all be Daniel Craig in “Skyfall.” Just do me a favor: Don’t stick me with George Lazenby.
(Photo by Stephanie Trapp/TrappFotos)